Your Grandma Will Be Playing Virtual Reality Before You Are

Virtual reality may be hip, but it's also helping the hip replacement generation.

12/08/2016 2:25 PM AEST | Updated 12/08/2016 2:28 PM AEST
The generation that saw radios become 'wireless' and phone exchange operators replaced by robots are now embracing virtual reality.

While gamers are gagging for virtual reality universes and first-person shooters to play, it may well be their grandparents that embrace the technology first.

A new program is using virtual reality to help the elderly walk safely without falling over and the results are exceptional.

Rather than using a VR headset like an Oculus Rift, researchers at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel attached sensors to a participant's feet and had them work on a treadmill in front of a screen, with an animated version of their feet.

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The participant has sensors on his feet that move a pair of animated shoes on the screen.

As they control the animated feet as they walk down a path, hazards appear that they have to skirt or step over.

It's not exactly Call of Duty but a study published in health journal The Lancet showed the game reduced falls in the six months after by 42 percent.

University of New South Wales professor Stephen R. Lord said the average reduction of falls for people undergoing exercise class was 17 percent.

He said the trail could change the way Australians treated falls prevention.

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A small obstacle approaches and the participant has to walk over it.

Although it is the case that VR training is not substantially more resource-intensive than treadmill training, one-on-one supervision was used in this study," Lord said.

"It is conceivable, however, that treadmill training with a VR component could be administered in community gyms and rehabilitation clinics, and since the intervention is relatively short term in nature, throughput of many people would be possible."

According to the Australia New Zealand Falls Prevention Society, 30 per cent of adults over 65 have at least one fall per year which was expected to increase as Australia's population aged.

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